FAQ: Fitness Guidelines

FAQ: Fitness Guidelines


Outward Bound is about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Physical challenge is one of the many tools we use to help you explore your personal potential. You do not have to be an athlete at a high fitness level in order to benefit from our courses, as they are designed for the reasonably fit, active individual. However, backpacking and hiking are physically demanding and a certain amount of preparation will ensure you are ready and comfortable.

While on course, you will be hiking with a heavy backpack for majority of each day. You will also be loading gear that can be quite heavy onto your back or those of your group members, and sometimes balancing on uneven ground can be tricky. You need to be prepared to be active for the better part of a day, and hiking for hours over rough and hilly terrain. Mountain hiking requires endurance and flexibility. Core strength, leg strength, and cardiovascular fitness are particularly important.

People of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels have enjoyed our adventures, but as with all Outward Bound courses, the more physically prepared you are, the more comfortable and enjoyable your experience will be. Cardiovascular fitness will be an important part of your preparation.

Participants hiking up a mountain. Example of terrain to keep in mind while fitness training!

Fitness means endurance, strength and flexibility. Therefore your training program should include:

  • Daily stretching exercises to develop flexibility and to reduce the chance of injury.
  • Speed walking, running, cycling or swimming to develop your cardiovascular capacity and lower body strength. Increasing distance, not speed, will help you to develop endurance.
  • Sit-ups/crunches, push-ups or weight training to increase upper body strength.

Before your course you should work towards completing at least one of the following goals:

  • Walking 3 km on hilly terrain in 40 minutes or less.
  • Running 3 km in 30 minutes or less.
  • Walking 3 km on hilly terrain in 45 minutes or less with a backpack weighing approximately 10-15 kg.

Start your program slowly. Be careful not to over-train in the early stages. Be patient and don’t expect dramatic results right away. Gradually increase the amount of exercise you do over time, beginning as soon as you have registered for your course. If possible, train in winter conditions. You might also review your dietary habits: eating regular, balanced meals will help you to get in shape.

When do I start exercising?
NOW is the time to start. Please see your physician prior to starting any physical exercise program or changing your diet, particularly if you are a smoker, or have any medical problems and have not been active, on a regular basis. Please note that use of tobacco products while on course is prohibited.

How often should I exercise?
The ideal routine would be a minimum of 3 cardiovascular sessions per week and a one-hour hike with a backpack weighing approximately 10-15 kg. The weekly cardio sessions could be hiking, running, brisk hill walking, swimming, cycling, aerobics, cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, or anything else which elevates your heart rate and gets you sweating. If you are unfamiliar with an activity you may want to start at 5-10 minutes and increase up to 30-45 minutes per session gradually, over 1-2 months. If you choose hiking, running, aerobics or hill walking, be sure that you have appropriate footwear that is good condition. Some simple strengthening exercises (sit ups, planks, etc.) will help you get ready for lifting and carrying heavy items. Flexibility is also important and you should stretch before and after your workout.

Remember, have fun, listen to your body, and enjoy getting ready for your Outward Bound Canada experience! Your local fitness centers can offer you helpful advice on a personal basis. Also remember that your rest days are as important as your training days. Please do not plan on dieting or losing weight during the program, you will need all the energy that our trail menus supply!